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Consuming Real Food While Racing Long

Posted on 10 July 2014

The ultra- running community more than any other was the originators of eating real food while visiting the various supported aid stations in 100 mile trail races and multi day running events.   I am not talking about eating a banana or piece of fruit, but meats, cheese, sandwiches, etc.   As we all know, the longer the race the tougher it is to eat sweet foods.

The ultra runnernutation plan was all about mixing some real substance based food into the normal mix of energy bars, gels, energy drinks.    Of course there are still many runners, and I know a few, that will only consume 1 energy gel per hour along with drinks and electrolytes during an entire 100 mile running race.    There is the constant battle for so many athletes of what to consume and hoping to eliminate GI distress during an event.

Everyone is different so there is no one plan for race nutrition.    Like many of you, I have seen it all.   I will never forget the time during a 100-mile trail running race and athlete consumed only whole milk (white and chocolate) during the entire race!

Here are few solid food choices that I have tested along with racing in multi day events.  Having variety of your calorie intake will help so you don’t get tired of the same foods:consume-real-food-while-racing-long


1. Chicken – Grilled Fajita’s, chicken and rice, entire chicken leg

2. Beef – mixed with rice and my favorite ice (during hot conditions), can be ground or steak strips.

3. Ham – Prosciutto on a sandwich with mustard, also grilled cheese ham sandwich

4. Pizza – tough to beat pizza for calories, multi day events perfect with meat added immediately following the race for the day.

5. Chicken soup – best during the night when salt levels are low and easy to digest and will warm you when dealing with those long cold nights.

6. Potatoes – mashed, whole, canned, does not matter as they are easy to digest and adding salt on the top

7. Tuna fish – sounds rough to get down, but offers sale

8. Turkey

9. Gummy Bears – not a “real” food but tough to beat for a sugar pickup during the real rough times.   I have a friend who races Ironman’s and he only eats gummy bears during the bike section.

10. Fresh fruit in a cup mixed with orange juice and nuts.   This is a great one of the bike as well.

11. Homemade oatmeal/nut bars that taste good

I receive so many questions on what to eat during a race and the concern over stomach distress.    It’s part of racing and I don’t know too many veteran athletes who have not suffered from GI distress.    The most important thing is to test a wide variety of foods and examine the results of your energy, digestion, GI problems, and find the best mix that you can handle.

Remember, you should test the foods in training when you are into a long workout, not at the beginning or the end, as it must simulate race conditions.    If your have trails, hills and heat for your key race then train in similar terrain and eat the foods during these key sessions.

As I have mentioned in Beyond the Iron book, consider adding a stomach distress run as part of your training.   Test multiple foods when tired and if you get stomach distress learn on how to get through it.     Sounds crazy, yes but if you are prepared mentally on to how handle it, then the chances of the dreaded DNF will be reduced significantly.

Remember – “Not Finishing Is Not An Option” and don’t let GI distress bring you down.

Any questions, please feel free to email me at

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